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Newer Dimensions in Architectural Materials

Green buildings focus on self-sustainability.  Practices like rainwater harvesting, use of rain water to refill the pools, use of solar panels for water heating, and use of biogas plants – makes a structure Green.

Sustainability demands efficient use of resources we have so that the need of present generation can be sufficiently fulfilled, keeping in mind its conservation at the same time.  As future depends upon what we do in the present, we should protect our abundant resources rather than thinking about its conservation when it goes scarce.

Cost-effectiveness in architecture has a significant role to play.We have millions of homeless families in the country.  To improve this status, we have to cut down unnecessary expenses – for instance, exposed brick structures can negate the cost of painting and plastering. Innovative use of jali patterns in the walls reduces materials quantity needed and infuses ventilation to the spaces; thus, reducing dependence on artificial ways of ventilation. The use of filter slabs reduces the amount of reinforcement required as the concrete is being replaced with a material like Mangalore tiles of broken earthen pots thereby lowering the cost of construction by 30-40 per cent as against traditional RCC slab.  Also use of filler slab technology reduced dead weight of concrete by 30 percent with inculcation of Filler material less of steel and cement concrete is required. The use of rat trap bond ie: laying bricks on edge – the structure would carry 20 percent more load than conventional Flemish bond and the bonded cavity in-between the bond helps in controlling the temperature of interior spaces by creating air medium between bricks helping to maintain better insulation from heat and cold.  Also, there is 25-30 percent cost reduction as less number of bricks gets used while constructing a rat trap bond wall than a conventional bond and no mortar is required on the middle of the cross brick – thus 40-50 per cent of cement and sand is used. The use of lime rather than cement is beneficial for us in India as we are short of Energy and lime uses almost no energy.  Cement and lime are made from calcium found in limestone and shells.  These, if burnt in a mud kiln by a handful of charcoal to start the burning process results in lime after getting cooled whereas cement is also made from same ingredients including some other items but requires a lot of fuel in its processing and the ultimate strength in mortar, plastic, concrete is the same for both cement and lime. Steel as we all know will corrode in lime concrete, so bamboo can be used instead as there are few types of bamboo that has same tensile strength as torsteel.  Further, the importance is that both lime and bamboo use practically no energy.

The need for thermal comfort in affordable housing in the hot and humid regions of the world offers a design challenge to builders everywhere.  Tight budgets often preclude the use of AC equipment or active solar system.  The need of the hour implies use of cost effective creative solutions to reduce energy demands, which can include use of frameless doors and windows to save wood.  Half the money spent on normal framed doors and windows, renewable building materials, locally available materials, embroidered jali patters in brick walls for natural light and ventilation, landscaping of indigenous plants, built-in seats and beds to save money on furniture, brick arches instead of reinforced concrete lintels as they are much less expensive can be formed in a variety of shapes, waste glass bottles to carry wall shelves, good roof overhang that sunshades and protects walls and openings from sun and rain – thus reducing cost of plastering and paint.

Sensitivity too, is an important factor and needs to be maintained throughout. Sensitivity here means to create a comfortable feel, connect identity and requirements and relate ourselves in designing and construction at emotional level.  Our methods and materials of construction must respond to the local climate as climate is a crucial factor to be considered.  We should at the same time enhance newer dimensions in Architecture.

After all,  we should move ahead towards creating a building that gives us energy, thus discarding the carbon footprints on Mother Earth towards sustainable development. Consciousness to the surrounding, existing vegetation and land terrain, use of locally available materials, respecting the culture of place, maximum use of natural ventilation, minimum dependence of artificial ventilation, use of non- conventional energy resources such as solar energy and biogas, use of cost effective construction techniques and newer sustainable dimensions in Architecture is what we should look forward to in our designs – thus leaving an architectural footprint for the coming generations to follow.

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